I found this story while exploring the Center for Digital Storytelling’s website. While several different stories proved excellent examples of digital storytelling, I found myself coming back to “The Mountain” by Amy Johns. This digital story was very simple in that it consisted of still images paired with music and narration by the author, but something about this simplicity was very powerful.
“The Mountain” recounts the author’s experience growing up on a mountaintop in Pennsylvania where generations of her family had lived. Johns recounts tales of playing in a springhouse that her great, great-grandfather had built, and running wild with her brother through forests their grandfather told them had been the playground of giants. Yet the mountain that Johns so fondly remembers soon vanished. The author’s grandparents sold the mining rights to the mountain in order to fund the building of their retirement home, because they believed the coal beneath the property was too deep and too dirty to be valuable to the coal companies. They were sadly mistaken, and the mountaintop Johns loved was removed in order to access the coal seam below. She goes on to recount the differences within the family regarding the stripping of the land, and her current struggle to prevent this destruction from continuing, while lamenting the fact that her niece will never be able to experience the mountain the way that she had in her youth.
The impact this mining venture had on Johns is related to the audience through her own photographs that document the mountain’s demise. While these pictures may not be the work of a professional photographer, the way they are used to build a narrative arc are powerful because they allow the viewer to experience the changing landscape firsthand. This digital story reminded me that no amount of editing or visual effects is able to substitute for a good story, and I found myself encouraged because it showed me that my own technological inexperience does not prevent me from telling a powerful story in this digital medium.